In order to enhance the Model UN (MUN) program at Pace, where students learn skills including how to research, make presentations and problem-solve, the MUN Student Executive Board along with faculty advisor Helen Smith decided to host the school’s first Pace-only model this year. The Student Executive Board is comprised of seniors Isabel Battista and Michael Fu, and juniors Kargil Behl, Leah Favero and Ryan Varma.
Pace’s very own virtual MUN conference, known as PACEMUN I, was held on Oct. 17. The committees present were the World Health Organization (WHO) with 15 participating delegates and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with 11 delegates. The two committees focused on preventing the next pandemic and the Venezuelan refugee crisis, respectively. Battista and Favero served as the UNHCR chairs and Behl was the chair for WHO committee, aided by science teacher and MUN advisor Dr. Kaylan Haizlip. Fu acted as Secretary-General, ensuring that the logistics of the model were running smoothly and handling any technology problems.
Junior Rebecca Kann of the WHO committee and senior Claire Howell of the UNHCR committee were awarded best position paper in their respective committees. The best delegate awards went to senior Laura Romig of WHO and freshman Henry Gaudet of UNHCR. Varma was also an outstanding delegate but could not receive his award because he is a member of the PACEMUN Executive Board.
In years past, Pace students have attended various models in person, including those at Georgia State University, George Washington University (WAMUNC) and Tufts. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physical Model UN conferences were canceled this year for safety reasons. Many will still be held virtually.
“I think even if we weren’t virtual we would have done our own model because we want to do a better job of training people to take part in models… we’d never done one, so learning how to do it seemed really important,” said Ms. Smith. Students participated in meetings with Ms. Smith every Sunday until Oct. 17 to prepare for the conference and to learn how to research and write position papers.
Howell said that the planning process was similar to previous years, except that meetings took place over Zoom. She added that her favorite parts of Model UN, learning about current events and developing fundamental skills she wouldn’t otherwise learn, were definitely still present throughout the process.
“I feel like the virtual structure has made it more difficult because it was harder to ask questions, but it made it easier to set up meetings,” said first-time Model UN participant Gaudet in reference to the virtual meetings. “I had to manage my research more individually since we couldn’t meet in person.”
The conference used software called Gatherly for delegates to communicate and discuss their topics. “Think of Gatherly as Zoom with the ability to create your own breakout rooms,” said Fu. “It allows delegates to make blocs during unmoderated caucuses on their own.” Fu also commented on how the Executive Board put in a lot of time for preparation and planning, as it was not only a virtual model but Pace’s first time hosting a model ever. “Our organizing team was in constant communication throughout the week,” he said.
“I like working and sitting down with students to help them with their research and writing,” said Ms. Smith. “I love traveling and seeing everyone work together after the model, which we are not able to do virtually… I miss that daily interaction.” Although Ms. Smith continues to direct the MUN program at Pace, she is not working at school physically this year due to the pandemic. She lamented that she was no longer able to “hunt people down” at break to work with them like she has been known to do in years past.